Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Paraclete as Teacher (John 14:22-31)... Holy Spirit Come: Jesus teaching on the Holy Spirit in John's Gospel (Part 2)

I don’t know if I’m a very good communicator. Now I know that is probably not the thing you want to hear from a person who has just got up to speak.

So I should quantify that by saying I’m not sure, As a husband and a father if I’m a good communicator…Because I often find myself in situations like this.

“But I told you this”… I’ve told people things and they forget them… and I’m the one who ends up in trouble for not communicating properly. There is a tui billboard in there somewhere I think.  

And to be fair there are many times when it is like this

“We told you about that…” and for the life of me I can’t remember being told and I find myself in trouble.

I’m pleased to say it’s usually not important things. Sometimes I feel like I’m going senile and sometimes I wonder if there is a conspiracy amongst certain teenagers to make me think I’m going mad.

Jesus words were so important, that he did not leave it up to his disciples’ memory or our memory alone to remember and to keep his words. He sent someone like himself to come alongside us to remind us and teach us all he had said. In what Leon Morris calls the fullest description of the Spirit found in this gospel, Jesus tells us “But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. My peace I give you my peace i leave with you… ”

We are working our way through what Jesus has to say about the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel. So that we may have a greater understanding of who the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity is, and what he has been sent by the father to do in our midst. We are doing that not just for an academic exercise, but that we may know more and more of the Spirit’s presence and power with and within us. There are, I believe, misconceptions and misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit that stop us from experiencing that presence and power. 

Our vision as a church is that we are called to be a vibrant, authentic, sustainable community, growing as followers of Christ, and inspiring others to join us on that journey’  and it is as we allow the Spirit to fill us more and more that we will see that vision be a reality.

Last week we asked the question ‘who is the Holy Spirit?’ we used Jesus introduction of the Spirit of Truth as another paraclete, a trusted friend who comes alongside and gives legal advice, and saw that the Holy Spirit, like Christ, is  divine; part of the trinity. That the Holy Spirit is a person, not just a weird and wonderful force in the universe, but is a being and is knowable. We saw that in the person of the Holy Spirit God is at work in the world. In particular we saw that the Holy Spirit comes and dwells with and within us, but not like some sort of takeover bid, rather comes alongside us, and invites us to go and be alongside the Spirit as he works out God purposes and love in the world.

Today we are going to start to look at the question What is the work of the Holy Spirit, what is the Paraclete’s role in the life of the believer, and the church.   

In the passage we had read out to us today, which flows straight on from last week’s passage we see that Jesus says, the Paraclete, which he identifies this time as the Holy Spirit, will teach us everything and bring to mind the things that Jesus has said. The key role of the Spirit is that of teacher. On top of that the Spirit is also the means by which we experience the peace of Christ in our lives. Paul Metzger sums up this dual function with a theatrical metaphor…

‘ The Spirit has no need to prove he’s in charge when he takes centre stage. In fact, the Spirit’ aim on centre stage is to make sure Jesus remains in the spotlight and to prove to Jesus followers the constancy of God’s Holy Love and abiding presence.”

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Spirit will teach us. Because as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Spirit has been doing this all along. Paul says the scriptures are spirit breathed. One of the key ways in which the Spirit teaches us has been in inspiring the writing of the scriptures, both the Hebrew ones and the gospels and epistles we have in the New Testament.

We know the words of Jesus and how they are to be applied to a community of faith, because of the gospels, Luke’s history of the early church, the epistles and the book of revelation. 

Now the mechanics of that Inspiration are hard for us to understand, in fact I would say they are a mystery in the full sense of the word. I had a discussion after the service last week which focused round this. If the Holy Spirit inspired people to write the books and parts of the bible, or bring collections of writings together, does that mean God overrode their freewill?  Looking at the word teacher here however provides us with some insights.

When some of youth group leaders in Rotorua found out I was going to be a mature student at University they told me ‘don’t act like those other mature students and always want to ask questions and dialogue with the lecturer, you never learn like that, just shut up and take notes.’ Some people see inspiration and the Holy Spirit as teacher like this. “just shut up and take notes’ they see inspiration as auto dictation.

But in the Ancient Near east, and also today, the style of teaching was very different, the Hebrews called it ‘midrash’… It was more than a student would live with their rabbi and in the process of life and discussion and questioning that they would learn. Being alongside their teacher. The group in the image (right) is a Jewish womens' midrash group, and you can see it illustrates this quite well its a lot more interactive.

In fact the passage we are looking at Illustrates that process very well. Jesus says something and we have the rest of his teaching in response to his disciple’s questions of clarification. In this case, the other Judas… and I’m sure he must of got fed up with having to differentiate himself from the Judas who betrayed Jesus, in fact in the other gospels he is identified with Thaddeus…asks Jesus why he is only going to reveal himself to his disciples not the world? The answer that Jesus gives is that he will reveal himself to those who love him by keeping his commandments. It is in this relationship carried on by the Paraclete that Jesus will be revealed. 

So Inspiration of scripture is more the Spirit comes alongside the writer and editor or compiler and being is in step with who that person is and is involved in their reflecting and writing and alongside, in such a way that what results, we believe, is scripture. Writings that are both the work of man but also spirit breathed. The more I know about the production of scripture and how we have the cannon we have now the more I see it as human work, and at the same time am amazed at the mystery that it also God’s Spirit at work. It is the Holy Spirit breath that makes them trustworthy and authoritative.

Not only does the spirit provide the scriptures, the Spirit opens up the scriptures and what Jesus has said to us. One of the ways he does that for the body of Christ is through the Gifts that he gives people. In Ephesians 4 Paul says Christ himself through the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors so that we may be equipped and built up for every good deed and bought to maturity in love. In 1 Corinthians we get another list of Gift’s through which the spirit is able to speak to us and work in us, witnessing to Jesus. We are going to look at that more fully later in the year when we look at the book of 1 Corinthians. One thing I want to say today is that it is very much a reflection of the Holy Spirit as one who comes alongside that we need the gifts that the Spirit gives to each other to grow and mature and be the Body of Christ together.

On another level the spirit also brings to mind what Jesus has said when we need it. Not in a way that will over ride our free will but so that it’s there when we need it; in time of temptation, or difficulty, or when we are called to bear witness to Jesus.

I just want to touch on ‘my peace I leave with you’ The peace that Jesus is talking about here is not simply the absence of conflict and hostility, the peace that the world gives. I don’t know about you but if that was what Jesus was offering here I’d have to say I’m not getting it Jesus. But the peace that Jesus is talking about is the peace that comes from the presence of the father and Son, mediated by the Spirit in our lives. The Hebrew idea of peace is right relationship with God. So we have peace through God’s abiding presence with us through what Jesus has done for us.

But that peace is also linked to the Holy Spirit as teacher, because it’s not just about proposition truth or information about God, but applying it in our lives… The spirit leads us to maturity and wholeness. It’s not just book learning its life learning.

Ok how does this connect with where we are at now?


I’m old enough to remember the 1960’s puppet show ‘Joe 90’, made by the same people who made thunderbirds. The premise of the show was that a kid called Joe was a super spy and was able to have his brainwaves altered by a special machine so he could do all these amazing things, like fly planes or preform advanced neurosurgery. For those of you who are younger, I guess it’s like the downloading skills programmes in the Matrix trilogy. But the Spirit as teacher is not about some sort of data dump, instant sainthood thing. It is a call for us to be alongside the one who is alongside us, it’s an invitation to a learning relationship. It takes time alongside each other in scripture study, in prayer and reflection. Like with the disciples in the farewell discourse it in wrestling with questions and being willing to seek and be led to answers.

It’s a relationship of trust and truth… I’m not sure I like that old bumper sticker ‘Be patient God’s not finished with me yet’ particularly on a car that swerves into my lane right in front of me without indicating…because it is often seen as an excuse, but I like what it expresses that to be a follower means to be a learner and we need to know that we need to learn and grow. This is an awkward way of putting it but…We need to be open to the truth for the spirit of truth to teach us truth.

Secondly, we need each other. One of the heresy’s of today is that the individual is the authority when it comes to what the spirit is saying. The idea that God has said this to me it’s got to be true and right. Right.  We forget Jesus teaching about the Paraclete is communal, it’s always “you plural”, in the west we suffer from a disease I call “you-sing-it is” we focus on a personal relationship with Jesus, the Spirit speaking to me, God with me, that we forget we are called to the people of God.
when Grahame Henry took over being the All Black's coach he made a comment that "once you made the All Black's you hadn't made it as a rugby player rather you had graduated to rugby university. You were a learner.' the church like that team is a learning community. I really appreciated the fact that at the same time Grahame Henry modelled what he was saying by having Brian Lachore, along time All Black's coach who had actually won the world cup and pioneered team coaching  on his coaching panel as a mentor.

 I love the honest of Leonard Sweet’s comment ‘I’m sure 80% of my theology is right, I’m just not sure which 80%’…  We need each other, the Spirit is alongside in and within us… the key component of Jesus truth is how to be the new people of God. We need each other for the spirit to teach us… How can we learn to love sacrificially, serve, forgive and care, , unless we are doing it in community. But also I need the gifts and insights the spirit has given you and you need the gifts and insights the spirit has given me so we can learn and grow. We can make sure we are hearing correctly. It is one of the reasons I believe we need to be in life groups, and am starting 4X4 groups here, with one of the elements being a hear life… we hear from God’s word by his Spirit together. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Not As Orphans (John 14:12-21)... Holy Sprit Come: Jesus Teaching on the Holy Spirit in John's Gospel (Part 1)

We are starting a new series this morning called ‘Holy Spirit Come’. And we will be looking at John’s teaching on the Holy Spirit, specifically in what is known as the farewell discourse; his teaching at that last supper with his disciples.  We are doing it for two reasons. 

 The first is that there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit, which I believe stop us from fully understanding and experiencing the promised presence and power of the Spirit. So it’s good to go back to the source and see what Jesus has to say… and John’s gospel has been called by some ‘the text book on the Holy Spirit’.

The second is that as a church we’ve been talking about renewal this year, because we want to buck the decline trend in churches in the west and grow and be effective in mission.

We started looking at Haggai, ‘Out of the ruins renewal’ and the renewal of priorities, vision and relationship.

We’ve just worked our way through the “I am “statements in John’s gospel, to refresh our vision of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus.  Our passion for the gospel is renewed as we see who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

 At the heart of renewal is allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us; renewal is the work of the Spirit. As a church we have a vision …”we are called to be an authentic, vibrant, sustainable community, growing as followers of Jesus and inspiring others to join us on that Journey” and while we may work at seeing that become a reality, in reality it is the Holy Spirit at work in and through us that makes the church a place of sustainable life and growth.  We inspire others to follow Jesus as we join ourselves to what the spirit is doing in the world around us.

I want to focus today on an introduction… On the question ‘who is the Holy Spirit?’ The passage we had read out to us today is the first of four in John’s gospel that speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete. So it’s appropriate to use this passage for that purpose. AS I was preparing for this it felt a little bit like an academic theological exercise, but as I focused on the term paraclete, I found myself encountering the Holy Spirit in new and refreshing ways, which I hope you will as well.

Let’s put this passage in its context. Jesus had told his disciples that he was about to die, he’d used the euphemism that he was going away. He then turns to comfort them; firstly he tells them that their ultimate destination is to be with him at his father’s house: That the porch light is always on. When Thomas asks for directions his response is to say “I am the way, the truth and the life’, that it is through his death and resurrection and an on-going relationship with Jesus that we will get to that destination. He goes on then to prepare his disciples for the journey before them, without his physical presence.

The journey will involve us doing the things that Jesus has done. The journey is one of Love, knowing God’s love and expressing our love for Jesus by keeping his commandments. We are called to live the way Jesus says. But it is not a journey we make alone. Jesus said he will ask the father to send another Paraclete, the spirit of truth to be with us and within us. This is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, God the spirit. If you are a Liverpool fan or a Christian your themes song is “you’ll never walk alone”

The word Paraclete, is a Greek word which literally means ”being called to the side of” or to come alongside.  It specifically is used outside the scriptures to refer to someone who comes alongside to offer assistance in a legal setting.  In many English bibles it is translated via a Latin equivalent as ‘advocate’ or as councillor; Legal counsel that is rather than a therapist. But paraclete does not give the idea of a court official, it’s more a trusted friend,  we probably understand that more these days with people acting as advocates for certain people or causes.

We probably get the best understanding of this title by relating it to “if you Love me keep my commandments”. AS it shows us a Paraclete is a friend who comes alongside, it is out of a love relationship that the Paraclete comes and stays with us. ‘Keep my commandment’ then, gives that legal setting, the paraclete helps us with obey Jesus commandments.

Another word that is often used is ‘comforter’ which we can see as therapeutic but in the old English meant someone who strengthens us.  Maybe in modern terms we’d think of a personal trainer or life coach.

The second thing that helps us understand who the Paraclete is, is the word another. I will ask the father to send another Paraclete. The implication is that we already have one who was sent to come alongside us… Jesus. The Spirit of truth that is sent is like Jesus. Paraclete is used five times in john’s writing four in the gospels to refer to the Holy Spirit and the fifth in 1 John 2:1-2 that says in Jesus we have an advocate, paraclete to plead our case before the Father, as he has given himself as an atoning sacrifice.

Another Paraclete, the spirit of truth, like Jesus, means he is God. Just as Jesus was God in the flesh achieving God’s purposes in the world, The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is God present in the world in spirit, achieving God’s purposes. In Zechariah 4:6 Zerubbabel is told “it is not by power, nor by might but by my Spirit say the Lord.’  While the Spirit is at work in the world, as Jesus said the world does not see or know him, because it is only in a relationship with God through what Jesus has done for us that we come to know the Holy Spirit. Theologically Christians speak of God as the trinity, God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one. One of John’s assertions about God is that God is Love and this is best expressed in the trinity;  the three people  of the Godhead as community  so perfectly loving  one another hat the only way to describe them is one. The celtic Christians symbolise this in their artwork through their  knot work.

Like Jesus the Spirit is sent from the father, and knows the father and makes know the things of the father to us.
John’s gospel starts with Jesus eternal origins and says that he was active in the creation of the world. In Genesis the Spirit is also present with God in the beginnings and as it says in Genesis 1:2 the Spirit of God was involve in the creation process, it hovered over the face of the deep.  The New Testament has many Trinitarian formulas and cases where the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are talked of as being active in our salvation and our sanctification.

Another Paraclete also tells us that the Holy Spirit is not just sort of star wars force, or the spiritual energy in the world like the Eastern idea of chi. The Holy Spirit Like Jesus is a person. Theologically we refer to God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as persons of the trinity.  It means that they are beings, and are knowable. Paraclete has the idea of a friend coming alongside, that we can know the Spirit. The Spirit teaches us, Paul talks of walking with the spirit, that we can grieve the Holy Spirit: It is not just an impersonal force.

The ‘Another Paraclete’, like Jesus was promised and has been part of God’s purpose and plans, it’s not just an innovation from Jesus. In the passage we had read out to us from Isaiah, we see the vision of the future of God’s people was that God would dwell within them by his Spirit. In the Hebrew Scriptures the Holy Spirit is said to fill people for specific tasks and purposes. Now with the coming of Jesus all who believe are to be filled with the Spirit not just the few special people but all of us, not just for a specific task but all the time. John the Baptist in john’s gospel points to Jesus and says “behold the Lamb of God, I baptise in water but he will baptise with the Spirit.”  In Acts 2 the coming of the Spirit in power at Pentecost is seen as a direct fulfilment of scripture,  specifically a prophecy in Joel 2.

As we’ll see as we work through John’s gospel Another Paraclete also means that the work of the Holy Spirit echoes that of Jesus. The Paraclete will lead us into all truth, it will bring to mind what Jesus had said, it will bring Jesus peace, ‘my peace I leave with you’, it will witness to who Jesus is, and enable us to do the same, it will convict the world of sin and their need for God. It will continue doing the things that Jesus did… In fact Jesus worked signs and wonders and was able to love sacrificially because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life, the same spirit that is now in and with us.

Ok how does this connect with us here and know.

Firstly, when Jesus returned to the Father he did not leave us as orphans, He did not leave us friendless.  He sent us another Paraclete like himself. Paul Metzger puts it like this “while Jesus returns home from his short term mission trip soon after the cross and resurrection, he comes right back in love through the Spirit.” God is now able to live within us because we have been put right with God by Jesus death and resurrection.  The amazing reality for us is that God is with us, the whole of all that God is,  is involved in loving and caring and saving us and making us whole and working with and through us to bring about new creation in the world.  .  The Holy Spirit is not just for those super spiritual types The Spirit is for, with and in all of us. So as Paul says be filled with and keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, one of the things that struck me as I looked at the word Paraclete, was the idea of the Spirit coming alongside. I don’t know about you, but often when people thing of a spirit dwelling with in someone they get the idea of possession, of losing their individuality or will and volition, that somehow the spirit takes over. The Holy Spirit is gentle. One of the images Jesus uses in the gospel is that of being yoked to Christ, pulling together.  The Holy Spirit, comes alongside like a friend, it knows us and we get to know it, to be filed with the Holy Spirit is to allow the spirit to know us and to know the spirit in every part of our lives and walk in step together.

Lastly,  As the same Spirit was in Christ, we are enabled and empowered to do what Christ has done; we can keep his commandments, we can love sacrificially and serve others, and we can see the power of God break into our world.  I’ve often thought of mission and evangelism as scary words something we do in obedience to God, often like a teenager ‘oh do I have to.’   The idea of the paraclete coming alongside revolutionises how we think of Mission.  Missio Dei is a new way that people are starting to understand what God calls us to do in the world. You see the spirit is at work in the world, doing the things Jesus does, and he invites us to go and join him and come alongside to add our efforts to what he is doing.
I love the example of one of the women in our church who was passing her local bakery recently and saw that the baker was throwing out heaps of bread at the end of the day. Now one of the things the Holy Spirit is about is calling us to care for the poor.She went home and rang them and asked if it was possible to give the bread to a local school for a breakfast programme. The baker said he'd be happy to do that... but the school closest to them had said no. The women rang some other schools and found one feeding quite a few children in the mornings before school and arranged for the bread to go there. No flash thus says the lord or anything like that just a simple coming alongside the spirit, and the spirit being alongside us.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Holy Spirit Come

Over the next month leading into Pentecost I will bre preaching a series of messages on Jesus teaching on the Holy Spirit in John's gospel and the first chapter of acts.

This is not the original image I had for the series but as we are leading into to Pentecost I have used this photo that I picked up somewhere many years ago and which speaks to me anew every time I see it.

We will be using a wonderful song 'Holy Spirit Living breath of God' by Keith and Kristyn Getty as the theme song for the series.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Am The Resurrection And The Life (John 11:17-44)... Refracted Glory: Jesus Revelaed in the "I Am" Sayings of John's Gospel (Part 7)

In the film Skyfall James Bond says his hobby is resurrection. Like many times in the Bond film franchise he’d been presumed dead but well he was back. And as it was the film to celebrate 50 years of Bond movies, it had a wider implication; the film series itself seemed to be dead again and again but keeps coming back. This latest film, through traumatic and sorrow filled events, resurrects the Bond Universe. Hopefully without ruining the film for people who haven’t seen it, at the end we are left with a new ‘Q’ a new “Moneypenny” a new ‘M’  and a Bond ready to go to work. The story has new life breathed into it and we are left with the message ‘Bond will return…soon’.

For Jesus resurrection isn’t just a hobby, it is at the core of who he is, “I am the resurrection and the life”. The context for that saying is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It good for us to look at this after Easter as RVG Tasker says ‘Raising Lazarus in john’s gospel leads to Jesus death and resurrection but also is the sign which discloses more clearly than any other the meaning of his death and resurrection”.

Also like the Bond movie tells of renewal and resurrection in a traumatic and grief filled story, “I am the resurrection and the life” shows how who Jesus is and what he has done for us can reach into the reality of our world. Bringing life in the face of death, joy in the face of sorrow… It helps us to see the paradox we live in as we talked about last week of new creation and resurrection in a hurting and broken world. Paul Metzger says about this passage ‘God has a way of bringing great good out of horrible tragedy… but no matter how well we know this it does not stop us from experiencing grief.”

This is the last in our series looking at the “I Am” sayings in John’s gospel; Sayings that show us the divine nature of Jesus. We’ve called the series Refracted Glory because John in his prologue, says of Jesus… ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Our working definition of Glory, is that it is the weighty reality of who someone is, and like light is refracted through a prism through looking at Jesus ‘I am’ statements we get to see the wondrous hues and deep rich dimensions of the weighty reality of all God is revealed in Jesus. It is my prayer that we may catch a renewed vision of the glory of God with us that would fill us and overflow into the world around us.

 Jesus had heard that Lazarus was sick and had told his disciples that what was about to happen would be to the Glory of God and that the son would be glorified through it, and it may be hard to get our heads round the fact that a tragedy is allowed to happen to bring Glory to God. The man born blind in John 9 is another example of this. But if we see glory as the weighty reality of who God is, it shows that tragic circumstances are opportunities for God to show his true character his mercy and his grace, his care and concern and the breathing of new life and new creation into our world, maybe as in the signs we have in John’s gospel through miraculous intervention “wonders”, but definitely through his journeying with us and his assertion that he is resurrection and life, and anyone who believes in him even though they die will live. The clear link in John’s gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus and his own death and resurrection also gives us insight into what Jesus means as the cross is Jesus ultimate glorification. Jesus reveals the reality of who God is by his willingness to identify with our suffering, pain and sorrow, and by that, overcoming it.

The immediate context of Jesus saying “I am the resurrection and the life” is a conversation with Martha, Lazarus’s sister.  Leonard Sweet paints the picture of Martha, Mary and Lazarus as being the people that Jesus would most likely hang out with on a night off.  They are Jesus mates. Martha is the oldest sister and for many of you, you’ll know that there are culturally designated thing for her to do at Funerals and other gatherings, particularly as there does not seem to be an older generation around.  When Jesus comes to dinner, in Luke’s gospel, she’s the one making sure that everything is done and here she comes out to welcome the visitors coming to give their condolences.

She greets Jesus not with a rebuke but a statement of faith in him and also an expression of regret that Jesus wasn’t here sooner. It was probably what Martha and Mary had said to each other time after time all through Lazarus’ illness and his death. If you’d been here earlier Jesus I know that my brother would not have died, But I know even know God will give you whatever you ask”. There is faith.

Jesus response is to tell Martha that, ‘her brother will rise again’. I don’t know about you but at funerals and in times of grief and tragedy  it’s easy for us to simply say things even great truths of our faith hoping they will  and ease peoples grief. Maybe Martha had heard that same thing from many of the religious leaders who had come down from Jerusalem. Martha responds with her faith that yes she knows that Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ She has this hope in God’s ultimate victory over sin and death… a future hope of eternal life. That great truth gives her comfort and hope.

Jesus says to her “I Am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe that?” he invites her not simply to have faith in her ‘faith’ but in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who makes the life she is talking about possible. Jesus is the gate, the light, the way the truth and the life and yes his death and resurrection will leads to our own resurrection. It calls us to put our hope and our trust in Jesus. So  Martha responds by affirming her trust in Jesus as the Messiah the Son of god who has come into the World’.

 I don’t know about you but even that kind of confession is easy to make without realising its implications for the here and now. Martha doesn’t get that. When Jesus later will call for the tomb to be opened she says well don’t do it Jesus! He’s been dead for four days, it’s going to stink.  Just as an aside four days in Hebrew thought was when someone was totally dead, they thought the spirit stayed round the body for three days after death, so Lazarus was totally dead. Into that situation Jesus then speaks resurrection. As Leon Morris puts it ‘Jesus is bringing Martha present power not just the promise of a future good.’ He calls Lazarus out of the grave and he comes.

The implication of this sign is that Jesus own death and resurrection will put an end to death itself and bring life. Both eternal life, ‘in my father’s house there is plenty of room and I go to prepare a way for you’. But also life now: where there is sickness healing, death…life, injustice… freedom, broken relationship…reconciliation, brokenness…peace and wholeness.

I often find myself relating to Martha. Yes I believe the tenants of the faith, the wonderful truths, I believe in the eternal life in Christ, I believe that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God who came from the father… but often when faced with suffering and hardship I says well come on its dead and it buried, how can those things impact on what I know to be real in this world…let’s face it sometimes it just stinks. Maybe I’m too used to crosses in a graveyard.

Then I find myself surprised by Jesus; he takes my little faith and is able to do amazing things in the face of the tragedies of life. I haven’t seen an actual resurrection but I have seen him bring new life.

That doesn’t really tell the whole story of encountering God in the midst of the realities of life. Let’s face it Lazarus died again. Millions of believers have died since, we face pain and sorrow, tragedy and grief. In this narrative we see more of Jesus response to that. Even though Jesus knows what he is going to do, we have that shortest and most profound of verses… Jesus wept. The divine nature of I am the resurrection and the life is perfectly at home with the very human nature of weeping for the loss of a friend, showing empathy for those who are mourning. We have the Son of God entering fully into what it is to be human, knowing our pain, our sorrow our grief.

This sign story finishes beyond our reading this morning with some believing in Jesus and others plotting to have Jesus killed. In fact it finishes with the high priest saying “It is better for one man to die for the people that a whole nation to perish.” Something that John says is prophetic. Jesus raising his friend to life even though  this will to his own death. This is Jesus ultimate response to our suffering and brokenness.  Jesus takes those things on himself on the cross. He takes them to the grave rather than them taking and leaving us in the grave. Paul Metzger says “While I don’t have all the answers, Jesus lives the questions and is himself the answer to our greatest pain and suffering. He who knows no sin and the all-powerful and all good God becomes human to identify with us in our need.”

Then in his resurrection he offers us the invitation to identify with him and his glory: the weighty reality of all that he as God is…To identify with his eternal nature that we will be raised to life to be with him for eternity. Death where is your sting it has been swallowed up in victory…To identify with his omniscience his presence with us all ways and everywhere. And lo I am with you to the end of the age there go make disciples … to identify with His being all loving his mercy and grace  both too us and through us. As I have loved you so love one another. Forgive one another … To identify with his compassion, to identify with the cross and costly selfless love. What you have done for the least of these you have done for me… And yes his omnipotence, his all-powerfulness the reality that God can reach into his world with resurrection and life. Didn't I tell you if you Believe you will see the Glory of God?